Future fuels not the only factor in decarbonising global shipping

Mar 3, 2020 Energy

Expecting future marine fuels like ammonia, hydrogen or bio-LNG to slash carbon emissions from shipping in the short term is unrealistic and overlooks immediate steps which could be taken to reduce CO2 intensity from international shipping and better align the global fleet with the ambition levels of International Maritime Organization for 2030, the AOG 2020 conference will be told

Sanjay Verma, responsible for LNG Business Development in the Asia region at Wärtsilä’s Marine Business, told AOG 2020 ahead of his conference presentation that conventional LNG as shipping fuel offered a sound solution to decarbonise global shipping, particularly when combined with smart and energy efficient ships.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) committed to reducing the carbon intensity of international shipping by 40 per cent by 2030 and reduce the total annual GHG emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2050 (from 2008 levels).

Mr Verma said the IMO regulations were a major driver for an industry that had finally defined its commitment to tackle climate change.

“The marine industry is still by far the most cost-effective means of transportation, but it is not without its challenges. Inefficiency, waste, pollution, long wait times in ports and abundant safety risks mean that valuable time and precious resources are often wasted,” Mr Verma said.

He will tell the AOG2020 conference key decarbonisation strategies include:

  • Adopting renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, and deploy steps to improve the efficiency of the propulsion system using new (engine) technologies and hybrid installations,
  • Installing smart technologies to optimise vessel operations, route planning, hull lubrication, power management and production as well as managing on-board energy consumption and storage,
  • For new builds, LNG offers a cost-effective and sustainable solution. LNG coupled with smart technologies are certainly a way forward to meet the 2030 ambition levels,
  • For existing vessels, if gas is a feasible solution, convert to LNG as a transition fuel (towards fuels like synthetic methane).

“We have several examples where these smart technologies have been employed leading to reduction in the energy need, which reduces the amount of fuel required for the vessel. For example, with today’s technologies we cannot propel an entire vessel with solar panels or wind assist, but it does supplement the power required to run the vessel,” Mr Verma said.

“The technology to power vessels on future fuels already exists or is under development, including hydrogen, biofuels and bio-LNG, but the fuels themselves are not yet available in the quantities and prices that would make them a realistic alternative.”

Each international shipping vessel has an expected lifespan of about 30 years, so the key to future decarbonisation is to make decisions now that account for flexibility into the future.

When we are looking at air pollution from ships then we should not look at CO2 in isolation. Sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter also need to be considered. About 4.2 million deaths result every year due to exposure to ambient (outdoor) air pollution as per 2016 World Health Organisation estimates,” Mr Verma said.

LNG as a marine fuel offers the most suitable alternative by completely removing the

dangerous sulphur oxide emissions, reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 85 per cent, eliminating particulate matter and reduces carbon dioxide by 15 to 22 per cent. In addition, these ships can use bio or synthetic LNG when it becomes available in the future.

Mr Verma said about only 2.6 per cent of total global anthropogenic CO2 emissions each year were attributable to shipping, meaning it was important to prioritise use of low-carbon fuel alternatives for land use to have a meaningful impact on global GHG emissions.

You can catch Mr Verma’s presentation on “Decarbonising the Marine Industry – the challenges and opportunities” when he presents on day two of the AOG 2020 forum at the Industry Supply Forum “Path to Energy Transition” session.

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